Playwright Joe DiPietro has several well-known shows under his belt: the long-running, off-Broadway favorite “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” the Tony Award-winning musical “Memphis” and, more recently, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” starring Matthew Broderick, which opened on Broadway in 2012.
DiPietro doesn’t work solely with musicals, however. In 1998, his play “Over the River and Through the Woods,” opened at the famed John Houseman Theater in New York.
Actors at Prince George’s Little Theatre are set to take the stage and bring “Over the River and Through the Woods” to life, starting this Friday.
Director Frank Pasqualino said the play is a very heartwarming and funny look at an Italian-American family in New Jersey.
“It’s a coming-of-age [story],” Pasqualino said. “It’s learning what it was about your family that made you what you are.”
The play follows Nick, a single guy who spends every Sunday having dinner with both sets of his grandparents in New Jersey. When Nick gets a job offer in Seattle, his family does not take it very well. So the grandparents go out of their way to try to keep Nick from leaving.
Pasqualino said even though an Italian-American family is represented in the show, every family will be able to enjoy the play.
“It could be any family, but it just so happens to be an Italian-American family with all the Italian food,” Pasqualino said. “It’s about any family, anywhere. That’s what’s so nice about the play — it’s universal.”
Sometimes when directing a show, problems arise — cast issues, script issues, issues in general. Pasqualino is quick to point out directing this show has been great.
“I have a fantastic cast,” Pasqualino said. “One of the catchphrases of this show is ‘tengo famiglia,’ which means ‘I have family’ in Italy. … We have become a family with all the ups and downs. They’re a very talented cast and they’re very funny and they bring out the heartwarming parts of the show real well.”
For Pasqualino, deciding to direct the show was an easy decision. When he was younger, he basically lived through the play in real life.
“When I was a senior in high school, my family decided to move to Ohio from New York,” Pasqualino said. “I remember all the guilt and everything my father received from his family about moving away from the family and things like that.
“When I first read this play, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, this strikes very close to home.’ And growing up Italian in New York … for better or worse, this is my family. All the craziness, all the kookiness. That’s what family is all about.”
The laughs come in full servings in this show, but Pasqualino said he hopes the audience walks away with a better appreciation for their family.
“I think they’re going to come away missing whoever it is they love,” Pasqualino said.